Alert service helps property owners fight off scammers

Top News | Daphne Li 11 Feb 2019

The Land Registry has launched a "property alert" service that enables owners to monitor once a mortgage has been taken out on their property or if it is sold without their knowledge, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun wrote on his blog.

By subscribing to the alert, the owner will receive a registration notification against the property through e-mail a day after the request is delivered to the Land Registry.

Wong said this measure was initially launched in 2015 following a number of scams where fraudsters posed as flat owners and used fake title deeds to apply for mortgage loans or to falsely claim the owners were selling the flat in order to dupe real-estate companies of deposits.

Details of the registration, including the date and nature of the instrument, date of delivery for registration and memorial number, will be included in the e-mail.

He said the one-off payment for each property is HK$580 or HK$250 for a two-year subscription. The service will remain valid until the ownership of the property changes.

The system has been renamed and modified to simplify the application process, which includes an online application form for users to download and submit by post or courier service.

Wong said the service aims to curb scammers purporting to sell or mortgage properties without the knowledge of owners, and enable owners to discover the problem at an early stage and take prompt action. Wong also said the service is particularly useful for owners with properties that are vacant or on lease and for those who reside outside Hong Kong.

Earlier in 2015, two fraudsters posed as the flat owners of an apartment at Festival City in Tai Wai to sign a deal with a buyer and ended up scamming the victim out of more than HK$2.9 million in deposits.

One of them changed his name to the original owner's to open a bank account for the deposit, while the other used a fake ID card to sign the contract with the buyer.

The duo were later arrested and were sentenced to 48 and 42 months.

Another man, who is still at large, allegedly posed as a property owner in Stanley and successfully took out a HK$9.8 million loan from a mortgage intermediary in 2016 using false identification documents, including an identity card, bank statement and water bill.

He is also accused of using the owner's identity to open a bank account to receive the loan.

The incident came to light when the finance company failed to receive the second payment and called the original owner.

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